Imam Abu Ja'far al-Tahawi al-Hanafi (239-321 AH)
translated by Iqbal Ahmad Azami
Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate
al-'Aqidah, representative of the viewpoint of ahl
al-Sunnah wa-al-Jama'a, has long been the most widely acclaimed, and
indeed indispensable, reference work on Muslim beliefs, of which this
is an edited English translation.
Ja'far Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Salamah bin Salmah bin `Abd al Malik bin
Salmah bin Sulaim bin Sulaiman bin Jawab Azdi, popularly known as Imam
Tahawi, after his birth-place in Egypt, is among the most outstanding
authorities of the Islamic world on Hadith and fiqh (jurisprudence). He
lived 239-321 A.H., an epoch when both the direct and indirect disciples
of the four Imams: Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam
Ahmad bin Hanbal - were teaching and practicing. This period was the zenith
of Hadith and fiqh studies, and Imam Tahawi studied with all the living
authorities of the day. He began as a student of his maternal uncle, Isma'il
bin Yahya Muzni. a leading disciple of Imam Shafi'i. Instinctively, however,
Imam Tahawi felt drawn to the corpus of Imam Abu Hanifah's works. Indeed,
he had seen his uncle and teacher turning to the works of Hanafi scholars
to resolve thorny issues of Fiqh, drawing heavily on the writings of Imam
Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Imam Abu Yusuf, who had codified
Hanafi fiqh. This led Imam Tahawi to devote his whole attention to studying
the Hanafi works and he eventually joined the Hanafi school.
stands out not only as a prominent follower of the Hanafi school but,
in view or his vast erudition and remarkable powers of assimilation, as
one of its leading scholars. His monumental scholarly works, such as Sharh
Ma'ani al-Athar and Mushkil al-Athar, are encyclopaedic in
scope and have long been regarded as indispensable for training students
though small in size, is a basic text for all times, listing what a Muslim
must know and believe and inwardly comprehend.
consensus among the Companions, Successors and all the leading Islamic
authorities such as Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam
Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the doctrines enumerated
in this work. For these doctrines shared by ahl al-sunnah wa-al-Jama'ah
owe their origin to the Holy Quran and consistent and confirmed Ahadith
- the undisputed primary sources of Islam.
Being a text
on the Islamic doctrines, this work draws heavily on the arguments set
forth in the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah. Likewise, the arguments advanced
in refuting the views of sects that have deviated from the Sunnah, are
also taken from the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah.
the sects mentioned in this work, a study of Islamic history up to the
time of Imam Tahawi would be quite helpful. References to sects such as
Mu'tazilah, Jahmiyyah, Qadriyah, and Jabriyah are found in the work. Moreover,
it contains allusions to the unorthodox and deviant views of the Shi'ah,
Khawarij and such mystics as had departed from the right path. There is
an explicit reference in the work to the nonsensical controversy on khalq-al
-Qu'ran in the times of Ma'mun and some other `Abbasid Caliphs.
permanent relevance of the statements of belief in al-'Aqidah is obvious,
the historical weight and point of certain of these statements can be
properly appreciated only if the work is used as a text for study under
the guidance of some learned person able to elucidate its arguments fully,
with reference to the intellectual and historical background of the sects
refuted in the work. Such study helps one to better understand the Islamic
doctrines and avoid the deviations of the past or the present.
grant us a true undersanding of faith and include us with those to whom
Allah refers as `those who believe, fear Allah and do good deeds'; and
`he who fears Allah, endures affliction, then Allah will not waste the
reward of well-doers.'
the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate
to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds.
scholar Hujjat al-lslam Abu Ja'far al-Warraq al-Tahawi al-Misri, may Allah
have mercy on him, said:
is a presentation of the beliefs of ahl-al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah, according
to the school of the jurists of this religion, Abu Hanifah an-Nu'man ibn
Thabit al-Kufi, Abu Yusuf Ya'qub ibn Ibrahim al-Ansari and Abu `Abdullah
Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, may Allah be pleased with them all,
and what they believe regarding the fundamentals of the religion and their
faith in the Lord of all the Worlds.
We ask Allah
to make us firm in our belief and seal our lives with it and to protect
us from variant ideas, scattering opinions and evil schools of view such
as those of the Mushabbihah, the Mu'tazilah, the Jahmiyyah the Jabriyah,
the Qadriyah and others like them who go against the Sunnah and Jama'ah
and have allied themselves with error. We renounce any connection with them
and in our opinion they are in error and on the path of destruction.
- We say
about Allah's unity believing by Allah's help - that Allah is One, without
is nothing like Him.
is nothing that can overwhelm Him.
is no god other than Him.
- He is
the Eternal without a beginning and enduring without end.
- He will
never perish or come to an end.
happens except what He wills.
- No imagination
can conceive of Him and no understanding can comprehend Him.
- He is
different from any created being.
- He is
living and never dies and is eternally active and never sleeps.
- He creates
without His being in need to do so and provides for His creation without
- He causes
death with no fear and restores to life without difficulty.
- He has
always existed together with His attributes since before creation. Bringing
creation into existence did not add anything to His attributes that
was not already there. As He was, together with His attributes, in pre-eternity,
so He will remain throughout endless time.
- It was
not only after the act of creation that He could be described as `the
Creator' nor was it only by the act of origination that He could he
described as `the Originator'.
- He was
always the Lord even when there was nothing to be Lord of, and always
the Creator even when there was no creation.
- In the
same way that He is the `Bringer to life of the dead', after He has
brought them to life a first time, and deserves this name before bringing
them to life, so too He deserves the name of `Creator' before He has
is because He has the power to do everything, everything is dependent
on Him, everything is easy for Him, and He does not need anything. `There
is nothing like Him and He is the Hearer, the Seer'. (al-Shura 42:11)
- He created
creation with His knowledge.
- He appointed
destinies for those He created.
- He allotted
to them fixed life spans.
about them was hidden from Him before He created them, and He knew everything
that they would do before He created them.
- He ordered
them to obey Him and forbade them to disobey Him.
happens according to His decree and will, and His will is accomplished.
The only will that people have is what He wills for them. What He wills
for them occurs and what He does not will, does not occur.
- He gives
guidance to whoever He wills, and protects them, and keeps them safe
from harm, out of His generosity; and He leads astray whoever He wills,
and abases them, and afflicts them, out of His justice.
- All of
them are subject to His will between either His generosity or His justice.
- He is
exalted beyond having opposites or equals.
- No one
can ward off His decree or put back His command or overpower His affairs.
- We believe
in all of this and are certain that everything comes from Him.
- And we
are certain that Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)
is His chosen servant and selected Prophet and His Messenger with whom
He is well pleased.
- And that
he is the seal of the prophets and the Imam of the godfearing and the
most honoured of all the messengers and the beloved of the Lord of all
claim to prophethood after Him is falsehood and deceit.
- He is
the one who has been sent to all the jinn and all mankind with truth
and guidance and with light and illumination.
- The Qur'an
is the word of Allah. It came from Him as speech without it being possible
to say how. He sent it down on His Messenger as revelation. The believers
accept it, as absolute truth. They are certain that it is, in truth,
the word of Allah. It is not created, as is the speech of human beings,
and anyone who hears it and claims that it is human speech has become
an unbeliever. Allah warns him and censures him and threatens him with
Fire when He says, Exalted is He:
will burn him in the Fire.' (al-Muddaththir 74:26)
threatens with the Fire those who say
is just human speech' (al-Muddaththir 74:25)
we know for
certain that it is the speech of the Creator of mankind and that it is
totally unlike the speech of mankind.
who describes Allah as being in any way the same as a human being has
become an unbeliever. All those who grasp this will take heed and refrain
from saying things such as the unbelievers say, and they will know that
He, in His attributes, is not like human beings.
Seeing of Allah by the People of the Garden' is true, without their
vision being all-encompassing and without the manner of their vision
being known. As the Book of our Lord has expressed it:
on that Day radiant, looking at their Lord'. (al-Qiyamah 75:22-3)
of this is as Allah knows and wills. Everything that has come down to
us about this from the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace,
in authentic traditions, is as he said and means what he intended. We
do not delve into that, trying to interpret it according to our own opinions
or letting our imaginations have free rein. No one is safe in his religion
unless he surrenders himself completely to Allah, the Exalted and Glorified
and to His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and leaves
the knowledge of things that are ambiguous to the one who knows them.
- A man's
Islam is not secure unless it is based on submission and surrender.
Anyone who desires to know things which it is beyond his capacity to
know, and whose intellect is not content with surrender, will find that
his desire veils him from a pure understanding of Allah's true Unity,
clear knowledge and correct belief, and that he veers between disbelief
and belief, confirmation and denial and acceptance and rejection. He
will be subject to whisperings and find himself confused and full of
doubt, being neither an accepting believer nor a denying rejector.
of a man in the `seeing of Allah by the people of the Garden is not
correct if he imagines what it is like, or interprets it according to
his own understanding since the interpretation of this seeing' or indeed,
the meaning of any of the subtle phenomena which are in the realm of
Lordship, is by avoiding its interpretation and strictly adhering to
the submission. `This is the din of Muslims. Anyone who does not guard
himself against negating the attributes of Allah, or likening Allah
to something else, has gone astray and has failed to understand Allah's
Glory, because our Lord, the Glorified and the Exalted, can only possibly
be described in terms of Oneness and Absolute Singularity and no creation
is in any way like Him.
- He is
beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts
or limbs. Nor is He contained by the six directions as all created things
(the Ascent through the heavens) is true. The Prophet, may Allah bless
him and grant him peace, was taken by night and ascended in his bodily
form, while awake, through the heavens, to whatever heights Allah willed
for him. Allah ennobled him in the way that He ennobled him and revealed
to him what He revealed to him,
his heart was not mistaken about what it saw' (al-Najm 53:11).
him and granted him peace in this world and the next.
(the Pool which Allah will grant the Prophet as an honour to quench
the thirst of His Ummah on the Day Of Judgement), is true.
(the intercession, which is stored up for Muslims), is true, as related
in the (consistent and confirmed) Ahadith.
- The covenant
`which Allah made with Adam and his offspring' is true.
knew, before the existence of time, the exact number of those who would
enter the Garden and the exact number of those who would enter the Fire.
This number will neither be increaser nor decreased.
- The same
applies to all actions done by people, which are done exactly as Allah
knew they would be done. Everyone is cased to what he was created for
and it is the action with which a man's life is sealed which dictates
his fate. Those who are fortunate are fortunate by the decree of Allah,
and those who are wretched are wretched by the decree of Allah.
- The exact
nature of the decree is Allah's secret in His creation, and no angel
near the Throne, nor Prophet sent with a message, has been given knowledge
of it. Delving into it and reflecting too much about it only leads to
destruction and loss, and results in rebelliousness. So be extremely
careful about thinking and reflecting on this matter or letting doubts
about it assail you, because Allah has kept knowledge of the decree
away from human beings, and forbidden them to enquire about it, saying
in His Book,
is not asked about what He does but they are asked'. (al-Anbiya' 21:23)
who asks: `Why did Allah do that?' has gone against a judgement of the
Book, and anyone who goes against a judgement of the Book is an unbeliever.
in sum is what those of Allah's friends with enlightened hearts need
to know and constitutes the degree of those firmly endowed with knowledge.
For there are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge which is accessible
to created beings, and knowledge which is not accessible to created
beings. Denying the knowledge which is accessible is disbelief, and
claiming the knowledge which is inaccessible is disbelief. Belief can
only be firm when accessible knowledge is accepted and inaccessible
knowledge is not sought after.
- We believe
in al-Lawh (the Tablet) and al-Qalam (the Pen) and in everything written
on it. Even if all created beings were to gather together to make something
fail to exist, whose existence Allah had written on the Tablet, they
would not be able to do so. And if all created beings were to gather
together to make something exist which Allah had not written on it,
they would not be able to do so. The Pen has dried having written down
all that will be in existence until the Day of Judgement. Whatever a
person has missed he would have never got it, and whatever one gets,
he would have never missed it.
- It is
necessary for the servant to know that Allah already knows everything
that is going to happen in His creation and decreed it in a detailed
and decisive way. There is nothing that He has created in either the
heavens or the earth that can contradict it, or add to it, or erase
it, or change it, or decrease it, or increase it in any way. This is
a fundamental aspect of belief and a necessary element of all knowledge
and recognition of Allah's Oneness and Lordship. As Allah says in His
created everything and decreed it in a detailed way'. (al-Furqan 25:2)
And He also
command is always a decided decree'. (al-Ahzab 33:38)
So woe to
anyone who argues with Allah concerning the decree and who, with a sick
heart, starts delving into this matter. In his delusory attempt to investigate
the Unseen, he is seeking a secret that can never be uncovered, and he
ends up an evil-doer, telling nothing but lies.
(the Throne) and al-Kursi (the Chair) are true.
- He is
independent of the Throne and what is beneath it.
- He encompasses
everything and is above it, and what He has created is incapable of
- We say
with belief, acceptance and submission that Allah took Ibrahim as an
intimate friend and that He spoke directly to Musa.
- We believe
in the angels, and the Prophets, and the books which were revealed to
the messengers, and we bear witness that they were all following the
- We call
the people of our qiblah Muslims and believers as long as they acknowledge
what the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, brought,
and accept as true everything that he said and told us about.
- We do
not enter into vain talk about Allah nor do we allow any dispute about
the religion Of Allah.
- We do
not argue about the Qur'an and we bear witness that it is the speech
of the Lord of all the Worlds which the Trustworthy Spirit came down
with and taught the most honoured Of all the Messengers, Muhammad, may
Allah bless him and grant him peace. It is the speech of Allah and no
speech of any created being is comparable to it. We do not say that
it was created and we do not go against the Jama'ah of the Muslims regarding
- We do
not consider any of the people of our qiblah to he unbelievers because
of any wrong action they have done, as long as they do not consider
that action to have been lawful.
- Nor do
we say that the wrong action of a man who has belief does not have a
harmful effect on him.
- We hope
that Allah will pardon the people of right action among the believers
and grant them entrance into the Garden through His mercy, but we cannot
be certain of this, and we cannot bear witness that it will definitely
happen and that they will be in the Garden. We ask forgiveness for the
people of wrong action among the believers and, although we are afraid
for them, we are not in despair about them.
and despair both remove one from the religion, but the path of truth
for the people of the qiblah lies between the two (e.g. a person must
fear and be conscious of Allah's reckoning as well as be hopeful of
- A person
does not step out or belief except by disavowing what brought him into
consists of affirmation by the tongue and acceptance by the heart.
- And the
whole of what is proven from the Prophet, upon him be peace, regarding
the Shari'ah and the explanation (of the Qur'an and of Islam) is true.
is, at base, the same for everyone, but the superiority of some over
others in it is due to their fear and awareness of Allah, their opposition
to their desires, and their choosing what is more pleasing to Allah.
- All the
believers are `friends' of Allah and the noblest of them in the sight
of Allah are those who are the most obedient and who most closely follow
consists of belief in Allah. His angels, His books, His messengers,
the Last Day, and belief that the Decree - both the good of it and the
evil of it, the sweet of it and the bitter or it - is all from Allah.
- We believe
in all these things. We do not make any distinction between any of the
messengers, we accept as true what all of them brought.
of the Ummah of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who
have committed grave sins will be in the Fire, but not forever, provided
they die and meet Allah as believers affirming His unity even if they
have not repented. They are subject to His will and judgement. If He
wants, He will forgive them and pardon them out of His generosity, as
is mentionied in the Qur'an when He says:
He forgives anything less than that (shirk) to whoever He wills' (al-Nisa'
and if He
wants, He will punish them in the Fire out of His justice and then bring
them out of the Fire through His mercy, and for the intercession of those
who were obedient to Him, and send them to the Garden. This is because
Allah is the Protector of those who recognize Him and will not treat them
in the Next World in the same way as He treats those who deny Him and
who are bereft of His guidance and have failed to obtain His protection.
O Allah, You are the Protector of Islam and its people; make us firm in
Islam until the day we meet You.
- We agree
with doing the prayer behind any of the people of the qiblah whether
right-acting or wrong-acting, and doing the funeral prayer over any
of them when they die.
- We do
not say that any of them will categorically go to either the Garden
or the Fire, and we do not accuse any of them of kufr (disbelief), shirk
(associating partners with Allah), or nifaq (hypocrisy), as long as
they have not openly demonstrated any of those things. We leave their
secrets to Allah.
- We do
not agree with killing any of the Ummah of Muhammad, may Allah bless
him and grant him peace, unless it is obligatory by Shari'ah to do so.
- We do
not recognize rebellion against our Imam or those in charge of our affairs
even if they are unjust, nor do we wish evil on them, nor do we withdraw
from following them. We hold that obedience to them is part of obedience
to Allah, The Glorified, and therefore obligatory as long as they do
not order to commit sins. We pray for their right guidance and pardon
from their wrongs.
- We follow
the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Jama'ah of the Muslims, and avoid
deviation, differences and divisions.
- We love
the people of justice and trustworthiness, and hate the people of injustice
our knowledge about something is unclear, we say: `Allah knows best'.
- We agree
with wiping over leather socks (in Wudu) whether on a journey or otherwise,
just as has come in the (consistent and confirmed) ahadith.
and jihad under the leadership of those in charge of the Muslims, whether
they are right or wrong-acting, are continuing obligations until the
Last Hour comes. Nothing can annul or controvert them.
- We believe
in Kiraman Katibin (the noble angels) who write down our actions for
Allah has appointed them over us as two guardians.
- We believe
in the Angel of Death who is charged with taking the spirits of all
- We believe
in the punishment in the grave for those who deserve it, and in the
questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakir about one's Lord, one's
religion and one's prophet, as has come down in ahadith from the Messenger
of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and in reports from
the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all.
- The grave
is either one of the meadows of the Garden or one of the pits of the
- We believe
in being brought back to life after death and in being recompensed for
our actions on the Day of Judgement, and al-'Ard, having been shown
them and al-Hisab, brought to account for them. And Qira'at al-Kitab,
reading the book, and the reward or punishments and in al-Sirat (the
Bridge) and al-Mizan (the Balance).
- The Garden
and the Fire are created things that never come to an end and we believe
that Allah created them before the rest of creation and then created
people to inhabit each of them. Whoever He wills goes to the Garden
out of His Bounty and whoever He wills goes to the Fire through His
justice. Everybody acts in accordance with what is destined for him
and goes towards what he has been created for.
and evil have both been decreed for people.
- The capability
in terms of Tawfiq (Divine Grace and Favour) which makes an action certain
to occur cannot be ascribed to a created being. This capability is integral
with action, whereas the capability of an action in terms of having
the necessary health, and ability, being in a position to act and having
the necessary means, exists in a person before the action. It is this
type of capability which is the object of the dictates of Shariah. Allah
the Exalted says:
does not charge a person except according to his ability'. (al-Baqarah
actions are created by Allah but earned by people.
the Exalted, has only charged people with what they are able to do and
people are only capable to do what Allah has favoured them. This is
the explanation of the phrase: `There is no power and no strength except
by Allah.' We add to this that there is no stratagem or way by which
anyone can avoid or escape disobedience to Allah except with Allah's
help; nor does anyone have the strength to put obedience to Allah into
practice and remain firm in it, except if Allah makes it possible for
them to do so.
happens according to Allah's will, knowledge, predestination and decree.
His will overpowers all other wills and His decree overpowers all stratagems.
He does whatever He wills and He is never unjust. He is exalted in His
purity above any evil or perdition and He is perfect far beyond any
fault or flaw. `He will not be asked about what He does but they will
he asked.' (al-Anbiya' 21: 23)
is benefit for dead people in the supplication and alms-giving of the
responds to people's supplications and gives them what they ask for.
has absolute control over everything and nothing has any control over
Him. Nothing can be independent of Allah even for the blinking of an
eye, and whoever considers himself independent of Allah for the blinking
of an eye is guilty of unbelief and becomes one of the people of perdition.
is angered and can be pleased but not in the same way as any creature.
- We love
the Companions of the Messenger of Allah but we do not go to excess
in our love for any one individual among them nor do we disown any one
of them. We hate anyone who hates them or does not speak well of them
and we only speak well of them. Love of them is a part of Islam, part
of belief and part of excellent behaviour, while hatred of them is unbelief,
hypocrisy and rebelliousness.
- We confirm
that, after the death of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him
and grant him peace, the caliphate went first to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq,
may Allah be pleased with him, thus proving his excellence and superiority
over the rest of the Muslims; then to `Umar ibn alKhattab, may Allah
be pleased with him; then to `Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him;
and then to `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him. These
are the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and upright leaders.
- We bear
witness that the ten who were named by the Messenger of Allah, may Allah
bless him and grant him peace, and who were promised the Garden by him,
will be in the Garden, as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him
and grant him peace, whose word is truth, bore witness that they would
he. The ten are: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Talhah, Zubayr, Sa'd,
Sa'id, `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf and Abu `Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah whose title
was the trustee of this Ummah, may Allah be pleased with all of them.
who speaks well of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah
bless him and grant him peace, and his wives and offspring, who are
all pure and untainted by any impurity, is free from the accusation
- The learned
men of the first community and those who followed in their footsteps
- the people of virtue, the narrators of the Ahadith, the jurists and
analysts- they must only be spoken about in the best way and anyone
who says anything bad about them is not on the right path.
- We do
not prefer any of the saintly men among the Ummah over any of the Prophets
but rather we say that any one of the Prophets is better than all the
awliya' put together.
- We believe
in what we know of Karamat, the marvels of the awliya' and in authentic
stories about them from trustworthy sources.
- We believe
in the signs of the Hour such as the appearance of the Dajjal and the
descent of `Isa ibn Maryam, peace be upon him, from heaven and we believe
in the rising of the sun from where it sets and in the emergence of
the Beast from the earth.
- We do
not accept as true what soothsayers and fortune-tellers say, nor do
we accept the claims of those who affirm anything which goes against
the Book, the Sunnah and the consensus of the Muslim Ummah.
- We agree
that holding together is the true and right path and that separation
is deviation and torment.
is only one religion of Allah in the heavens and the earth and that
is the religion of Islam. Allah says:
religion in the sight of Allah is Islam'. (Al `Imran 3:19)
And He also
am pleased with Islam as a religion for you'. (al-Matidah 5:3)
lies between going to excess and falling short, between Tashbih (likening
of Allah's attributes to anything else), and Tatil (denying Allah's
attributes), between fatalism and refusing decree as proceeding from
Allah and between certainty (without being conscious of Allah's reckoning)
and despair (of Allah's mercy).
is our religion and it is what we believe in, both inwardly and outwardly,
and we renounce any connection, before Allah, with anyone who goes against
what we have said and made clear.
We ask Allah
to protect us from all falsehood and we ask His Grace and Favour to do